Monday, June 14, 2010

Needlessly gendered children's product

This category could go on indefinitely, but I just want to show a few toys from a Sears catalog that was just delivered. First, in the 'Outdoor Summer Fun' section are two pool loungers.

Although I will concede that the toys are not identical and possibly not designed to be a male and female version of the same toy, they are advertised as such by being the only two options of pool loungers and are featured right next to each other. The lounger on the left features Buzz Lightyear (a character often depicted on toys designed for boys) and shows a boy playing on a police boat style lounger. The toy involves active play; you get to spray people with what the website describes as water-blasting cannon, a type of toy weapon.

The girls version, however, involves no active play. The girl is lounging in the chair smiling at her Barbie, as the chair offers a specific lounge area for a Barbie doll. The girl is also posed very similarly to how adult swimsuit models might pose, and takes up very little space with her legs curled up.

My daughter is very "girly" in that she loves Barbies and the colour pink (grrr), but, I have to say that, if we had the luxury of a swimming pool, she would definitely prefer the Buzz Lightyear lounger. She would likely get bored of watching Barbie lounge after a few minutes, and unless her Barbie had special water cannon protection powers, she would be defenseless to her brother's water-blasting cannon attack.

A sleeping bag on the same page was needlessly gendered in that it offered the exact same products, but as either a Soccer theme, or a Fairy Princess.

Both have identical items (sleeping bag, flashlight, water bottle, keychain, whistle, etc), but the girls one has to be distinct from the boys sleeping bag with pretty colors. My son is involved in soccer (and my daughter would be too if they didn't make the 7 year olds play until 9pm on schoolnights). In my city, soccer is usually co-ed until early teens and girls and women are well represented on competitive and recreational teams, so I'm not sure why the bags have to be gendered in this way.

I also find it interesting that the "boys" version is based on something kids do whereas the girls version is something that they wish to be and requires no obvious doing on thier part.

Edited to add:

I just found another picture, this time from a book club that came home from school

(the bottom outside pictures)

The girls book gives them "easy instructions and ideas for tiaras, sparkly masks, presents, and more!" because girls need things simple, like things that are pretty and sparkly, and enjoy being generous. The boys book has "ideas and instructions for mummies, masks and more!" because boys don't need their instructions to be easy or their masks to be sparkly.

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